Strange things happen in every political season. But in the current presidential election season, the surprises so far have been so breathtaking they defy logic and common sense. The Donald Trump White House bid, once widely viewed as something of a huge joke, is no longer being seen in that light by many. Now accepted as real, it has redrawn the boundaries of what is considered sane and insane, as well as reshaped what constitutes a new normal in America. He could win his party’s nomination — and who knows? — go on to win the election, although President Barack Obama does not think the latter will ever happen. Either way, it is a strange thing indeed. So, too, is the campaign of Bernie Sanders, the latter-day Democrat who growls at the top of his lungs in the name of campaign speeches. He promises naïve Democrats that he’ll take all of them to the moon. Somehow, they believe that will happen. Strange.
But what is even stranger than fiction in all this, is the whole concept of Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”, moderating a Republican town hall event on Wednesday, a forum where a presidential candidate gets the chance to take direct questions from the voters, with possible follow-up questions from the moderator. Scarborough will be joined at the event by his co-host, Mika Brzezinski. Now you might be forgiven to think that all the current field of Republican candidates — Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Jeb! Bush, Ted Cruz, John Kasich and Donald Trump — will be attending the event as well. No, they aren’t; the show is meant for Trump alone.
So far we have had a rash of Democratic town hall events hosted by journalists working for CNN and MSNBC, among them Anderson Cooper, Chris Cuomo and Rachel Maddow. But the great thing about those events was that they were professionally and admirably handled. Add to that the undeniable fact that these three figures are credible and fair-minded journalists with no bias towards any of the candidates. All the candidates also had the chance to participate by plugging aspects of their stump speeches in addition to taking questions from members of the audience.
Not so Scarborough. A former Republican congressman who once voted to impeach Bill Clinton, Scarborough can neither cloak his disdain for a candidate, nor dissemble his love for another. If you ever watch Morning Joe (Well, I do occasionally, but only for its nuisance value), you most certainly will see how, assisted by his sidekick, he skewers Hillary Clinton and slobbers over Trump. You need to see how he particularly goes into rhapsodies while talking about Trump’s poll numbers, and how he takes barely-concealed joy in Clinton’s occasional dismal poll numbers. He does this every morning with neither decorum nor a sense of proportion.
Recently, there were reports of Scarborough and Brzezinski allegedly visiting Trump in his hotel room during the New Hampshire primary, and also of how Scarborough allegedly bragged about going over to see the candidate in his office to hand him debate tips after the second Republican debate.
How long MSNBC will continue to allow Scarborough to foul its nest with his kind of television show, baffles a lot of observers, including, we’re told, many at the cable organization. That he’s even being allowed to go a step further in his highly questionable practice by hosting a town hall gathering for Trump alone, must be leaving even more observers shell-shocked about his employers’ judgement. The larger point is this: Even if all the candidates were attending, Scarborough and Brzezinski are never your idea of credible town hall or debate moderators; their brand of journalism — if journalism it should be called — shames the whole idea. It stinks.